Watching Martinez like going back in time
Martinez a running machine
Martinez a running machine

Posted Oct 8, 2010


Yep, I can't help myself. Also, I will admit it when I'm wrong. Taylor Martinez may not be Peyton Manning in the throwing department. But in this system, the grand old option system, he doesn't have to be. Nobody has ever had to be. And now I find myself seeing how Martinez and some of those old Husker greats are looking very similar.

If you want to nitpick, maybe the first five minutes of the game wasn’t exactly flawless for the offense. And maybe the defense looked a little soft as the KSU offense held onto the ball the first quarter, a whopping 11  minutes-plus.

After that, though, only the Husker coaches weren’t smiling almost the entirety of the rest of that game as the Huskers opened up their Big-12 Farewell Tour with a 48-13 skinning of the Cats in Manhattan.

Happy Birthday, Bill.

Nope, not quite the present KSU’s Snyder wanted for his 71st birthday. It was the kind that may look great under the tree, but there’s a rude awakening when you open up the box.

You could have just put a picture of Taylor Martinez in it and called it good.

Martinez is finding himself now being
appropriately compared, at least in ability, to some former Husker greats.

With a slew of records to his name now that he didn’t have before this contest, Martinez and his prowess for running rampant on teams now has found itself firmly in the company of names like Crouch, Frazier, Lord and Frost.

Yeah, he’s that good.

Let’s not assume that I am talking about the entire picture of Martinez’ ability. He improved dramatically this week in the passing game from the woeful performance against South Dakota State. But let’s face it, he threw it seven times. He completed five of them, though, one of them going 79 yards for a score by tight end Kyler Reed.

But running?

Forget about it.

This kid is legit.

Of course, he had a little help.

This is where I cross the line into the realm of trying to diagnose what the offensive line was doing.

Oh, screw it, they were good…

..real good

A couple of the blocks thrown by senior Ricky Henry actually had me feeling sorry for KSU. The Wildcats came into the game as one of the worst rushing defenses in the conference. They obviously didn’t better that standing as they gave up 451 yards rushing to the Big Red. So, I guess you could say that Nebraska did exactly what they should have done.

I’ll concede that, but I’ll also remind one and all that South Dakota State went into the Nebraska game giving up more yards per game on the ground than KSU, and to teams like Delaware and Illinois State.

Oh yeah, it’s about motivation. It’s about gauging your opponent and realizing what is on the line.

The first conference game? On the road? The last game against KSU Head Coach, Bill Snyder?

But seriously, let’s get back to Martinez.

I won’t go into all the records he broke. You could probably google it right now and find a dozen stories which outline all of them. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot.

And he passed, too. Five completions on seven attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Tell me that doesn’t remind you of the good old days.

And there’s the rub. Or maybe that’s the clincher. Or whatever.

I will be the first one to admit that I didn’t buy into Taylor Martinez one bit. I knew he could run. Hell, everyone knew he could run. My question was about his ability to throw.

People would regale me with his 3,000 plus yards passing from his prep days and his award for California Player of the Year – an honor he was chosen for over the likes of USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

When Martinez signed with the Huskers, many (myself included) thought he would start his career on defense. But he insisted on being given the chance to play quarterback.

I still wasn’t buying it, because on Taylor’s Centennial High School team, he had 11 other players who got scholarships to play at FBS schools. Not sure how you translate that to college, but I figure that would equate to a few first rounders or so.

Even when the season got underway, and he had a chance to throw some passes here and there, I wasn’t so much looking at his mechanics. I was just looking at what he did and when. We’re all couch potatoes and think we know how things should be done.

Well, some do.

I don’t.

I would add that I have seen quarterbacks who have some of the worst looking throwing motions end up winning national titles and finish a runner up in the Heisman off what they could do with their arm.

Josh Heupel anyone?

So, that’s not it. Throw it as ugly as you want. I don’t care. I have seen plenty of Husker quarterbacks scare small children with their throwing motions. But they won national titles, because they might not have been textbook or excellent in the passing game, but they were efficient. And ala Scott Frost in the Orange Bowl versus Tennessee when players like Leonard Little and Al Wilson were loading the box, daring Nebraska to pass, he did and got Nebraska three first downs, some breathing room and the rest, as they say, is history.

In Nebraska history, at least from the early-70s up to the bad years when Bill Callahan arrived, that was enough. Opportunistic trumped prolific. Efficient beat productive. Then you throw in the mobility of the QB.

Tom Osborne first went to a mobile QB, because he saw his team getting their head handed to them by an Oklahoma team that seemed to have mobile QBs running out of its ears. And just when Nebraska thought they had them stopped, it was that shifty-signal-caller that somehow made a play.

They could do it via the pass scramble. They could do it from a designed run. Heck, they could do it when the play got completely botched before it ever began. They made defenses account for all 11 players instead of being able to key off on some specific skill guys, feeling quite comfy with the notion that the last place that quarterback would go is the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Out of the “Wishbone” the Sooners slaughtered teams. They actually averaged over 472 yards per game on the ground one year, still and probably forever the best team average in a single season.

Out of the “I-Formation” was what Osborne favored, and he didn’t do bad either, the Huskers taking the rushing title on a national level 13 times (there were two rushing titles before Osborne switched to the option, and two of the 13 titles were teams coached by Solich, but still using the option out of the I-formation), and on a conference level they rushed for more yards per game than anyone else 20 times (five under Solich).

Now it’s the “Zone Read.”

Out of the “Shotgun” sometimes, even the “Pistol” others, the Huskers have a new way of taking the ball and cramming it down people’s throats. But unlike OU’s fabled offense and even Nebraska’s, the quarterback isn’t just one of the guys putting the yards out there, he’s THE guy who seems to be hauling the load.

Some of that is simply because of Martinez.

But back to my previously stated stubbornness, maybe it’s because I live in Nebraska that I don’t like change. And maybe I don’t like people haphazardly replacing legends with newcomers just because they have a good game. But I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to running the ball, there are only so many “fluke” things you can do.

Martinez still has much to prove in the passing game. But going back in time a bit, I think you could say that about the entire careers of some of the best option quarterbacks Nebraska has ever had.

You can either run or you can’t, right? You either have wheels or you don’t. You can either cut, run through tackles and explode or maybe you can do just one or two of the three.

Martinez can do it all. Now having had two 80-yard runs to watch where he made supposedly fast players look as slow as “Molasses in Winter time” (stolen movie line from the Outlaw Josey Wales, but it sounds cool), and him breaking tackles despite the fact that he’s certainly not the biggest guy in the world – I’m sold.

The kid can run and even pass it a bit.

Yep, I know. You already figured it out while I sat her stubbornly not wanting to give him credit.

Maybe, but I’m just funny like that, and while it’s easy to forget now, because KSU is the game we are looking back to, I still remember South Dakota State.

Three turnovers, all by Martinez. One was a fumble and two were interceptions that looked like he was throwing them right at the Jackrabbits who caught them.

And, he did fumble a ball against Kansas State, early on in the game. But he also recovered a fumble which was uncharacteristically attributed to one Mr. Rex Burkhead.

Does five for seven passing for 128 yards and a touchdown in this game erase what happened in just a game before?

Who is to say that when Nebraska faces Kansas, a team which is going through some tough times right now, people aren’t thinking about other things like they did against South Dakota State?

So, there is still room to improve.

But this kid is a freshman. Yes, a redshirt freshman, but still a freshman.

What we critique as crimes the moment they occur, are almost part and parcel to the process of growing into your position – your role.

And we aren’t even halfway through the year.

Yes, he’ll face much better defenses
Yes, he’ll make more mistakes
Yes, this might be the best rushing game of the season – maybe his career

But the kid convinced me, because so many of the things that send inexperienced newcomers into a hole not wanting to come out, seem to get to him a bit only to watch him come out for the better on the other side.

Think of what he’ll be like when he knows the offense like the back of his hand.

Scary? Well, for the other team. Not for me.

I’m enjoying it. It’s like going back in time.

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